Archive for January, 2014|Monthly archive page

Community, Part 2

In Christianity on January 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm

I grew up in a small family: 2 sisters, 4 grandparents, 1 aunt and 1 uncle. My Mom was an only child. My Dad had one sister. Perhaps this is one reason why community¹ in the Church is important to me. But the importance of  community and the Communion of Saints is greater than any comfort it gives me.

January 1 is the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God, a holy day of obligation for Catholic Christians. On January 1, we recall the First Council of Ephesus in 431. The Council was assembled because the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, had objected to the title Theotokos (Greek for “God-bearer” or Mother of God) being given to the Virgin Mary. His point was that no creature could bear The Creator.

The Council taught otherwise. We must call Mary Theotokos, the Mother of God, because failing to do so would sever the Divine and the human in Christ. The dilemma of how a creature could bear The Creator is not resolved in Mary; it is resolved in Jesus Christ², the God-Man Who took the flesh of the Virgin Mary and became man to to accomplish our redemption.

What does any of that have to do with community? The Lord’s great act of love and condescension puts a new face, literally, on the meaning of community. This is infinite, eternal community—His solidarity with us in our flesh; in our joys and sufferings of our lives; in experiencing death. Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, paid the penalty for our sin that we might live eternally. That is community!

Still, a short postscript can be added to show yet another dimension of community. After Mass on January 1, I paused to kneel at the Crèche beside the altar. My wife and I had been away over Christmas and this was my first opportunity to pay homage to The Holy Family in this way. I was joined almost immediately by several others, parents and children of the parish—unforced, unprompted; motivated by love for our Lord. What joy! We didn’t need to speak. We were united in Christ and in this visible display of devotion. What a wonderful sense of family; what a joy-filled demonstration of community in Christ.

That experience also demonstrates the days of the Liturgical Year we call “Holy Days of Obligation” are actually “Holy Days of Opportunity.” In the liturgy, in the community, and most of all in The Eucharist, we are always given much more than we could ask or deserve.

Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. That truly is Christianity Richly!

¹ If you have begun your exploration of community with this post, Part 2, then be sure to see Part 1 and Part 3, as well.

² Fr. Jay Scott Newman, January 1, 2014 homily at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Greenville, SC. I have footnoted this statement because it was one of the most incisive in his homily, but I am indebted to Fr. Newman for the substance of much of this post. I simply have placed it in the context of thinking about community.

Community, Part 1

In Christianity on January 2, 2014 at 9:59 pm

When the Christianity Richly blog was launched in 2009, several posts described my reasons for entering “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”¹ If you’ve read the About link (located beneath the large, red Christianity Richly masthead at the top) you’ll know my journey was based on certainty, history, unity, authority, and liturgy.

Over the years since entering the Church, an important sixth reason has become clear: community. The Apostles Creed concludes

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen. 

Not surprisingly, the communion of saints is viewed differently by Christians who protest that “the holy catholic Church” simply means the invisible body of true Christians, the members of which are known only to God.² But even while holding that position, protestant assemblies sometimes encourage members to “greet the saints around you.” Ah, now we are getting closer to the truth!

While authority remains first among the reasons for becoming a Catholic Christian, the importance of the communion of saints was always apparent.  A simple example: from the first time I knelt beside strangers in a Catholic Church, it became clear—from this very unaccustomed posture—that a greater consciousness of the needs of others, and their devotion to God, resulted. No longer was I surrounded by seemingly self-sufficient, individualistic Christians, relaxing with their legs and arms crossed, in the pews. The sense of community that comes from kneeling with others to worship God was (and is) powerful.

Yet this example only scratches the surface of what the communion of saints is, a reality that is is vitally important to understand. In the posts that  follow, perhaps together we can begin to grasp the importance of the communion of saints to our daily lives—yours and mine. I encourage to read on, Community Part 2Community Part 3Community Part 4, and even A Day for Community.

¹ See this article about what are called “the four marks of the Church” (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic). For it is in community that we find Christianity Richly.

² If the Apostles Creed, or the concept of the communion of saints, are new to you may want to read the material at the red-highlighted links as background.